Parallel mirrors

Working with parallel mirrors led me to try this idea of a vertical stack of six pairs of square mirrors. The mirrors are separated by black and white tubes, made of rolled paper. This might appear fragile but the collection of tubes is much stronger than you might think. As I built the stack I changed the proportion of black and white tubes in an organic, dendritic way. The stack rests on a black rubber mat. This reflects in the infinity mirrors and creates patterns reminiscent of the Op Art works of Bridget Riley. The illusion of depth, and height if you look upward into the stack, is powerful and unsettling. The title shows common themes with the previous work. The illusory worlds in each mirror appear to occupy the same space to an observer. They are different, the arrangement of tubes in each is unique, but they seem to coincident. I find that intriguing. I like playing with perception and using my art to prompt curiosity about what is real and what is illusion.

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Spriggs, R. (2017) Coincident Infinities, Acrylic, Paper, Rubber, Mirrored Glass, University of Herfordshire, Hatfield, UK

Looking up into the stack of mirrors can be equally unsettling.

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Coincident infinities was exhibited with another piece, Coincidence of Opposing Virtual Spaces. They shared a number of features and had a visual conversation which was interesting.

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Add not subtract

ART  +  SCIENCE

My art practice is both about science and using it as a raw material from which to fashion work or as a tool with which to create new forms. As my practice has developed I have realized the strength of my personal history as a physicist and embraced it. A key scientific influence is the Nobel Prize winning quantum physicist, Richard Feynman, both for his groundbreaking visual approach to quantum interactions and for his wide-ranging philosophy, which expanded to include art and aesthetics.

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Feynman’s philosophy, most notably his views on science, art and beauty, have led to a different strand of my artwork. Comparing and contrasting these two disciplines, drawing attention to the similarities differences, and celebrating the shared humanity of scientists and artists. In an interview for the BBC series Horizon in 1981, Feynman said “science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery … I don’t understand how it subtracts.” (Horizon, 1981) This is, perhaps, the heart of my affinity with Richard Feynman. Science, for me as for Feynman, does not detract from my appreciation of art, it only gives me additional aesthetic avenues to explore.

Illusion and Reality

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This was a work that had a long genesis. I have produced many pieces with a grid-like geometric arrangement of elements. The addition here of parallel pairs of mirrors providing the illusion of infinite reflections is the important development.

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I chose to make two separate boxed grids, one black and one white. The arrangement of the elements, choice of material, finish and orientation is derived from a random binary series. Each boxed grid is a mirror of the other, one predominantly black, the other white. Additionally, the boxes are placed on plinths precisely, so that the elements line up and the reflections in one box align with the contrasting elements in the other box. The distance between the boxes in exactly the same as the separation of the mirrors in each box, so that there are two reflected versions of reality in the space between the boxes. The plinths are built at a height where it is natural to look into the boxes and see the infinite reflections in each box.

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Transparent materials can disappear and give visible components the illusion of weightlessness. Mirrored surfaces confuse the eye and add further illusion to the visual experience. Similarly, matt, granular surfaces can swallow light and interact with mirrors in interesting ways. The illusory, virtual nature of reflections interests me deeply. They appear to show objects in parallel realities, obeying the same physical laws but reversed. The illusion can be complete, but the motion in this virtual space is dependent on actions in our own space. Who is to say, however, that mirror worlds do not express the projection of other realities on our own consciousness?

So, what do I expect from the viewer of my work? What kind of reaction to I hope for? Fundamentally, I hope for a response to the aesthetic aspect of the work. The symmetry and pattern within my work is there for reasons of beauty. I find geometric design and repetition attractive and hope others will share my appreciation. I have been inspired by minimalist art from the last century. Donald Judd, Frank Stella and Sol LeWitt are artists whose work I admire for its’ simplicity and for its’ elegant beauty. LeWitt is of special interest to me for his logical exploration of geometry with aesthetic purpose. He has also found a balance between order and chaos in his work which I seek in my own pieces.

Art/Science synthesis

My work is a synthesis of Art and Science. I work in three dimensions and my practice is informed by my knowledge of the sciences. Science is my material both in a literal, tangible sense and conceptually. I create by applying scientific ideas with aesthetic intent. In exploring the potential for beauty in Science, my intention is to stimulate curiosity and have the viewer question their assumptions about reality.

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Spriggs, R. (2017) Array of 36 Magnetic Pendulums, Ceramic magnets, perspex and wood, (2m x 1.2m x 1.2m), University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, UK

The unseen forces which order our physical world are the substance for my sculpture. Both gravity and electromagnetic forces have long fascinated me. My father was an electrical engineer and I often played with magnets as a child, feeling the invisible yet very real forces between them. Extending this interest into studies of other unseen fields was part of my scientific studies. So, it has seemed natural to me to seek to sculpt using these hidden entities, which may only be seen by their effects on other objects or interaction with other fields.

I have combined these forces in large arrays of magnetic pendulums. Gravity determines the period of their oscillation and the magnets are arranged to repel one another. The result is a dynamic structure and the motion of the pendulums is complex tending towards the truly chaotic. By carefully finding the balance between the pendulums motion and the repulsive forces of the magnets the random movements will continue for a long period without intervention. I have used hidden electromagnets, driven by timing circuits, to periodically provide a subtle push to a small number of pendulums in the array. Consequently, the slow, subtle, hypnotic movements will continue indefinitely, evolving with time, forming patterns for a moment and descending into disorder at others.

The pendulums are constructed from ceramic ring magnets within acrylic spheres, suspended by clear, perspex rods. The rods pass through a transparent perspex sheet and are secured with a wooden sphere, which acts as a bearing and allows the pendulum to swing freely.

The magnets are arranged in a grid form, such that each magnet repels those around it. In this way, if one magnet moves it will cause the magnets surrounding it to move. Gentle waves of movement are passed through the array.

The transparency of the Perspex sheet and rods for the pendulums also allows the viewer to concentrate on the magnetic spheres. The spheres move in a subtle, slow way. The length of the pendulums gives them a long period of oscillation. The power of the electromagnets beneath the array are just enough to move the magnets above a small amount on each cycle of the timing circuits. The pulses from the asymmetrically placed electromagnets are on different time settings so they rarely coincide. As a result, the motion evolves in a complex unpredictable way.

When it was first started I sat and watched the movements for some time. I found it almost hypnotic. Patterns of motion form and disappear over time, sometimes chaotic, at other times a fleeting order emerges and fades away again. It is my own work and I am undoubtedly biased but I find this piece compelling.

The array was designed to be a balance between order, in the geometric structure, and the at times chaotic oscillations of the pendulums. The interaction of the forces pushing magnets apart and gravity pulling them together is key. I think it is the dynamic equilibrium between these forces that is engaging. The array is kinetic, perhaps chaotic, but sometimes ordered motion evolves from the apparently random. Its’ unpredictable nature is attractive in a similar way to water running over rocks or a wave breaking on the sand. An expression of natural forces in a carefully constructed system.

A synthesis of Art and Science

This is the post excerpt.

 

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A friend and an artist I respect and admire provided me with this wonderful endorsement for a recent funding application. Thank you, it’s great to know someone understands.

“Bob’s work is on a different plane to art that merely adopts ideas and images from science. He integrates his deep knowledge and love of science into a systematic and meaningful aesthetic and conceptual enquiry.

His Pendulum installation is immersive and contemplative, its rhythms go in and out of phase, it has the attributes of a complex system, provoking in my mind a state of perception that lies at the mysterious interface of the physical, causal and noetic; the work embodies a fusion of physics and poetry and points toward a true qualitative, simultaneously subjective and objective science that takes into account the observer, not merely presenting quantities and measurement separate from the observer.

Bob is a thoughtful and switched on collaborator, he is a focussed and committed artist who has a huge amount to say.”